Philadelphia 76ers: Inside shooting remains a fatal flaw

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

After dropping a bomb to the Wizards in the second of back to backs one thing is clear; inside shooting remains the Philadelphia 76ers’ fatal flaw.

When their outside shots are falling there simply isn’t a better team in the Eastern Conference than the Philadelphia 76ers. But when they aren’t, oh boy, things can get ugly in a hurry.

Case and point; the team’s recent 123-106 loss to the Washington Wizards.

In said game, the 76ers hit 8-27 3 pointers for a paltry 24 points, marking the 10th time this season the Sixers completed less than 30 percent of their shots from outside the arc.

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And worst of all, the loss came against a team they blew out by a similar margin only one night prior.

The main difference? Landry Shamet went 1-4 from deep for five points instead as opposed to 8-15 for 29 points on the hallowed floor of the Wells Fargo Center. In a game lost by 17, those additional 24 points could have all but single-handedly changed the outcome from a crushing loss to another solid victory.

While the game wasn’t all bad, as Furkan Korkmaz continued to prove his value as a potential piece moving forward in his second straight start, making half of his eight attempts from 3 for 16 points to go with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals, J.J. Redick‘s absence was certainly felt on the wings.

But at this point, can we really be all that surprised? After officially passing the halfway point of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers’ fatal flaw is abundantly clear: The team has no drivers.

You see, Brett Brown really wants his scheme to operate like that of the Golden State Warriors, but a vintage Steve Kerr-style scheme is predicated on outside shooting, yes, but also on drivers. Sure, the team once known as the Philadelphia Warriors certainly have a collection of some of the best outside shooters in NBA history, like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, but their presence helps to keep defenders out of the paint, and open up lanes for less dynamic scorers like Harrison Barnes and Shaun Livingston to do damage on the interior.

While the 76ers’ collection of shooters, Redick, Shamet, Furkan, Mike Muscala, and Shake Milton aren’t necessarily bad, they hardly compare to that of Golden State. Because of this, and Ben Simmons‘ lack of a reliable jumper, teams are all too often able to slack off into the paint on nights when the 3 ball isn’t falling, effectively daring the team to drive the basket.

A good strategy based on how the roster is presently constructed.

As things presently stand, the 76ers rank 23rd overall in the league in points generated in the paint. While this isn’t indicative of a bad strategy, as the Boston Celtics, the Houston Rockets, and the aforementioned Warriors currently rank 28th, 29th and 30th in the category and will all still be playing ball in May, but it does highlight a team without a collection of balanced scorers.

And when you factor in that 16.2 of Joel Embiid and Simmons collective 29.7 shot attempts come within five feet of the basket, the rest of the team is left with an average of 20 shots in the paint a game.

That is not a winning formula.

Outside of the team’s Big 3, the Sixers don’t have a single player who averages more than two attempts in the paint a night. Typically, when 3s stop falling a team starts to drive at the basket and pick up two points around the rim. However, when the 76ers start to fall behind in a close game, well, they keep on letting it fly from outside, regardless of their shooting percentage.

That’s why inside scoring is so essential: Not only does it provide higher percentage looks for scorers, but it also forces opposing coaches to cover the entire court, as opposed to crowding the pain to limit Embiid and Simmons usefulness.

But that, again, is not all.

No, by driving more, players also get fouled more ofthen, another problem area for this current incarnation of the Sixers.

Sure, the team averages the second most free throw attempts a game in the league, but of their 28 attempts from the charity stripe each game, Embiid averages 9.9, Simmons averages 5.6, and Butler averages 4.7. That leaves about eight free throws a night for rest of the Sixers, a clear sign of a poorly constructed roster.

But what is there to do to fix this issue? Nothing, at least not with the team’s current collection of players.

Because of the sheer abundance of one-note outside shooters, and pass first points, the 76ers only have one ‘professional’ scorer in Jimmy Butler. If the Sixers want to get better, and more dynamic over the back half of the season, they must find a way to infuse more inside scorers, drivers, into the rotation.

dark. Next. It’s time to sign Shake Milton… again

While players like Redick, Korkmaz, and T.J. McConnell can certainly attempt more layups moving forward, it’s clear the Philadelphia 76ers are a three-tier scorer away from being a serious competitor for the Eastern Conference’s crown.